Eleanor Spicer Rice, author of “Unseen Jungle: The Microbes That Secretly Control Our World”

by | May 3, 2023

Eleanor Spicer Rice, PhD–an entomologist by training, and the author of multiple books, focused on ants and spiders—recounts how she came to write a book about microbes, “Unseen Jungle: The Microbes That Secretly Control Our World.” Spicer Rice explains that a cadre of researchers investigating a particular microbe approached her to write about their research for young readers, fulfilling a commitment of the researchers’ grant. As she delved into the realm of microbes, she found it fascinating and exciting. In fact, she notes, once she’d completed the initial assignment, she’d become so enthralled with microbes, she kept going, researching and writing what became “Unseen Jungle.” As she extended her efforts, she continued aiming them toward producing the pages for a younger audience, targeting 7-10 year old readers. But, as I observed in the conversation, as with many of the smartest projects over the years ostensibly aimed at kids (e.g., “Sesame Street” and “Looney Tunes”), “Unseen Jungle” will likely be found illuminating and entertaining among an adult audience, too. I certainly learned a lot! We engaged in some Microbes 101, starting with Spicer Rice defining what a microbe is, and how extensively microbes reside on humans. Noting that Spicer has largely divided the book into four broad sections (House, Yard, Food, You), I asked her for some notable examples of microbe action in those sections, including—fittingly enough for an entomologist–bees, cicadas, and mosquitos. Spicer Rice also fielded some listener calls, including one who may have confused water bears with water hippos (one is microscopic, one is decidedly not), and another whose chief interest seemed to be recommending Ed Yong’s latest book, “An Immense World.” The book is brimming with charming, often arresting illustrations by award-winning illustrator and noted graphic designer Rob Wilson


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Rick Chaboudy, the co-founder and executive director of Suncoast Animal League, which on, May 5, was slated to present its “Casino Night,” a fundraising extravaganza held at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Chaboudy explained that the event was already sold-out (“a full house,” he noted, wryly), while outlining the activities being offered—including casino mainstays like Blackjack, roulette, poker, craps, and slot machines. Chaboudy points out “Casino Night” stands to be the biggest fundraising event in Suncoast’s 17 year history. (https://www.suncoastanimalleague.org/, https://www.instagram.com/suncoastanimalleague/, https://www.facebook.com/SuncoastAnimalLeague/)


COMEDY CORNER: Nate Fridson’s “Horse Racing” (DS edit)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  Magadog’s “Monkey in the White House” [Magadog performs at WMNF’s “Tropical Heatwave, May 6, at the Cuban Club]


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